A new study reveals that cancer care patients and their family members place a particularly high importance on relationships and communication.
Titled “Evaluation of Patient and Family Outpatient Complaints as a Strategy to Prioritize Efforts to Improve Cancer Care Delivery” and published in the October issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, the study analyzed select outpatient complaints at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston over a two-year period.
The study authors found that 48% of the complaints involved management issues (e.g., finance and billing, service issues, delays, and access and admission). Coming in second at 41% were complaints related to relationships, including communication breakdowns (15%), patient-staff dialogue (5%), and humanness and caring (18%).
Somewhat of a surprise was that just 11% of complaints related to quality and safety, although these complaints were frequently of higher severity than others.
The study’s authors write:
Most notably, patients and their family members prioritize high-quality relationships and communication. These findings differ from prior work in other settings, where quality and safety concerns are more prominent, suggesting that longitudinal care for life-threatening illness engenders special priorities for relational care. Improving the patient experience of cancer care requires recognition of the role of relationships and attention to the communication skills of all staff.
Cancer care organizations that invest in care coordination and patient navigation services are likely to be in a strong position to effectively cater to such patient and family member expectations.